Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fantova kavárna

“The traveller's-eye view of men and women is not satisfying. A man might spend his life in trains and restaurants and know nothing of humanity at the end. To know, one must be an actor as well as a spectator.”

- Aldous Huxley

In Prague's main railway station, Praha hlavní nádraží, the options for quality dining and refreshment are just about zero. As for style, don't look for it in the main passenger terminal. It is represents the height, or perhaps the depth, of 70s communist design.If you are waiting for a train and want to escape all that ugliness, there is one small, fading respite. Find the hard-to-find stairs and go up to Fantova kavárna -- Fanta's Cafe.

It is a small place, with tables around a hole looking down into the lower passage to the train platforms. You can get coffee, cake, or a beer here, although I never have.The attraction is that it sits in the preserved Art Nouveau entrance hall of the station. I use the term preserved loosely. Very loosely. This gorgeous, artistic building is falling apart. But it still has a great amount of beauty. A big renovation of the station is in the works.The cafe gets its name from the architect of the train station, Josef Fanta. It was finished in 1909. Now, its doors face a big highway that was built right in front of the station in the 1970s.Perhaps there's one other thing you should know about the place. It is a well-known rent boy cruising spot -- there have been a number of newspaper articles, television reports, and even a documentary about what goes on inside the train station.

I didn't see anything like that when I was there. Then again, I was looking up a lot. It's all very nice to look at, but at Fantova kavárna, I'd ignore Huxley's advice. Fantova kavárna
Praha hlavní nádraží
Wilsonova 80
Prague 1


Jay said...

I've had coffee here before. It's not too great, so I'd recommend skipping it and going for beer or something. It is an amazing place to walk around in though, especially when you contrast it with what's downstairs.

Anonymous said...

Yes, amazing architecture. Nice Krusovice on tap as well.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing nice about Krusovice, whether on tap or in a bottle.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately the train station is about to undergo a ginormous renovation that will take at least a year...there will certainly be more and better options then :)

Anonymous said...

You mean more rentboys from more Eastern European countries?

Anonymous said...

Brewsta, you really took my suggestion to go where no blogger has gone before with this entry ... I wouldn't dream of going to the main train station for any reason -- not even to catch a train!

Brewsta said...

I had to pick up someone to ensure her comfort and safety.

Interestingly, there was a recent report about a taxi mafia operating at the train station. I saw the taxis there, they all had a company name I did not recognize. The report said regular taxi drivers are afraid to go there.

Pivní Filosof said...

And the other day they were asking you to go somewhere off the beaten track. What can be more off the beaten track than Hlavni Nadrazi (sorry, can't be bother to swtich to czech keyboard).
Anyway, it would be really nice to see that beautiful building renovated. In order to preserve it, though, traffic would have to go underground, otherwise it would be for nothing since much of the damage is due to the motorway there.
I've had the "privilege" of having to take trains there at several different times of the day and night, and believe me, compared to where I come from, Hlavni Nadrazi is as safe as a village in the middle of the night.
And about the taxis. You have to be really silly to take a taxi there being that there is a metro station in the building.

Brewsta said...

Ah, but there are plenty of reasons you might require a taxi - if you have heavy bags or you are in a hurry or you need to get somewhere away from a metro line.

One interesting interaction I saw once --

I was at Florenc bus station and saw a guy ask a taxi driver to take him to Karlovy Vary during film festival week. The driver was fine with that.

Pivní Filosof said...

Good point, you are right... I feel sorry for those poor sods who arrive here fresh faced and are game for those taxi criminals (but then again, people should really pay attention to warnings in guide books). If you have been here more than a couple of minutes you will realise that it is easier, safer and cheaper to call a radio taxi.
I remember when I had to go to Zatec once a week, the company I was teaching at had an arrangement with a private taxi firm. The would charge you 1000Kc to bring you back to Prague. Which was a really nice price, and a better option when you missed the last bus back to the city and you had to wait two hours for a train that would take another two hours (hopefully) to get to Prague.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from Hlavni Nadrazi. Good lord, what a scary ride! We somehow ended up taking a side undergroud walking route to get there - two tunnels swarming with drugheads. Hey, mind your own syringe! I'd not been this scared in a long time. Kinda spoiled the entire experience of the kavarna.

Anyway, it's so depressing to be seeing it in its current condition. No idea how they're ever going to fix it. The walls are peeling and falling apart. The tracks are ripped out.

We truly were hoping for a little decadent coffee moment. Not the kind of decadence we ended up experiencing though.